Banksia Hill has struggled since becoming the state’s sole youth custody centre. There are not enough dispersal options to manage the complexity of the population. A single unit (Harding) is used for multiple disparate purposes which are constantly changing. There are physical deficiencies across the site and in the Harding unit. New facilities have been needed for some time, especially for crisis care and intensive management.
Control has slipped
In 2016, despite the population being lower than in the past, there were several incidents of serious damage, and self harm reached unprecedented levels. The increase in critical incidents and self harm has continued in 2017, including two major incidents on 4 and 5 May 2017. The transformation project was cancelled after these incidents.
A poorly implemented transformation project caused confusion and inconsistency in treatment of young people
The Department was right to promote a stronger rehabilitative model. However, the transformation project was poorly implemented. Four years after the riot, the model was still only being developed. A number of positive initiatives had stalled or were still only in the pipeline. Staff were uncertain and divided about the model, leading to inconsistency in the management of young people.
Staff morale at Banksia Hill has been low
Many staff reported feeling unsafe at work, and increasing numbers of assaults on staff affirmed their concerns. Staff also reported being disempowered, unheard by head office management, and having little confidence in behaviour management practices. In addition, they were fearful of investigations. This dangerous mix hampered their ability and willingness to respond to the behaviour of some of the young people.
Management responses to incidents conflict with rehabilitation
Management responses to critical incidents have conflicted with a rehabilitative, trauma informed model. Young people have spent more time confined in cell and some have even been denied their legislatively mandated time out of cell for exercise every day. There have been increases in restraint use and high level tactical response, and the centre continues to increase physical security, making the environment more punitive.